Being out in nature can be empowering in many different ways. Rouchelle explains how going topless out in the wilderness has been the ultimate lesson in liberation.
Recently, a girlfriend and I went out ski touring, and we took the quintessential girl-topless-in-nature photo. The classic pose has featured on Instagram millions of times over the years. The bare back, arms in the air, facing away from the camera, somewhere picturesque, and generally in the mountains.
Proudly, I showed the artistic nature shots to a few friends, girls and guys. My girlfriends remarked something along the lines of, ‘Oh that’s amazing, I’ve done a photo like that,’ or ‘I wish I had the courage to take a photo like that.’ My male friends remarked, ‘Why do women do that, I’ve never understood why?’.
It got me thinking, why do we do it? Is it just women who take this particular photo? What is this trend? Is it a trend, or is it pure liberation?
Finding Liberation in Nudity
I remember the first time I peeled off my sports bra on a hike to take this classic shot at age 19. A girlfriend and I had traipsed down a very muddy trail in search of a waterfall. When we arrived at our destination, no one was around. So, on a bit of a whim, we decided to take a nude photo of each other, with the waterfall flowing in the background.
I’d never experienced any sort of nudity in public, other than an accidental nip-slip after getting dunked by a wave at the beach. There was something liberating about taking a photo in the nude, like proof of being bold. I was proud of it.
Yes, the photo went on Instagram. But there was so much more to it, even back then in 2014. It was freeing, a little scary, and one of the riskiest things I’d ever done. I felt vulnerable and empowered all at the same time.
Learning to Love Your Body
Growing up, many girls learn to have so much shame when it comes to their bodies. I’m one of those girls who’s always been on the more self-conscious side, so maybe for me, it was something I needed to do to embrace and accept my body.
Body shame can be a toxic thing, a looming cloud that many endure throughout their lives. Although, standing out in the alpine air, all of those thoughts fall away. It makes me take a deep breath and embrace the moment.
During my most recent experience taking my top off in nature, I still felt the same feelings as I did the first time. I was still a little scared, but I was definitely more confident than I had been previously. The friend I was with had never done it before and she was keen to do something a little ‘wild’.
To set the scene; we were out ski touring. The ski resort we were working at was shut as a result of lockdowns, so if we wanted to hit the slopes we had to get up the hills using our own leg power. And we all know how essential, essential exercise is.
As you can imagine touring is pretty strenuous at times, so delayering is essential to regulate one’s body temperature. Climbing up the ridgeline, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to get a shot. The breeze was blowing, cold but not too cold. Giggling at how ridiculous we were being, we took turns carefully peeling off the layers and placing them on the snow out of the camera’s frame.
We were a little scared someone might catch us free-nipping out in the wilderness. High on adrenaline.
Doing it For Yourself
Even in our mid-20s, we wondered if we’d be judged for expressing this kind of liberation by friends or family. The photos weren’t taken for anyone else’s benefit other than our own, capturing a moment of silliness. Some may say empowerment.
No one was around to judge us, or at least no one was close enough to see what we were doing on that breezy mountain ridge. At that moment we felt free.
Everyone knows empowerment doesn’t come from getting your clothes off. It comes from how we feel within, as humans. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin – that’s liberation. And this expression of liberation is not specific to any gender.
For me, as a female, repeating the experience has been liberating and empowering in a way I don’t get in my usual life. It was a nice reminder, we still have some control over how we feel in a world gone slightly mad.
Read more: How To Start Living More Adventurously
Recently looking back on the photos, we talked about how the act made us feel alive and took our minds off everything else going on in the world. This sense of liberation seemed to be a relatable experience many of my girlfriends have had when they’ve taken the classic girl-topless-in-nature photo over the years.
In a time when we’re more restricted than usual, a topless photo in nature feels like a harmless expression of freedom. I can’t deny it – these photos look great on Instagram – but there’s a deeper reason why people take these photos.
So if you should find yourself on a mountaintop or anywhere picturesque and reasonably deserted, maybe give it a try? You might just come away feeling empowered.